Crater Lake: Oregon’s Only National Park

If the closest you have been to Crater Lake is when you pulled your rental car up close to a bumper and saw the commemorative Oregon license plate, it’s time you shifted into high gear and took a road trip.

Head to Roseburg, grab something to eat, fuel up and head east out beautiful Highway 138 along the incredible North Umpqua Scenic Byway. Do yourself a favor and talk someone else into driving, because the trip up to Crater Lake National Park rivals your ultimate destination in its ability to inspire your awe.

You’ll head out through the lush rolling hills that lead east from Roseburg for 15 minutes until you reach Glide. You’ll want to stop here for a few minutes to take in a site you can’t see anywhere else in Oregon, and few other places anywhere for that matter.

Pull off at the Colliding Rivers Viewpoint where you can witness the North Umpqua and the Little River converging at an almost head-on angle. It’s an impressive, naturally chaotic sight and beautifully sets the stage for what lies ahead – a drive through paradise.

Most of your route runs alongside the North Umpqua, the legendary and pristine river that is on the bucket list of every serious fly angler (LINK to fishing).

The scenic byway is also renowned for its waterfalls (LINK), hiking and biking trails, campgrounds and more. But remember your goal on this day is 70 miles ahead and you’re going to need lots of time at your destination. So by all means feel free to stop and gawk along the way, but keep your eye on the prize.

And what a prize Crater Lake is. With a depth of 1,943 feet, this is America’s deepest lake and the ninth deepest in the world, for those keeping score. For all we know, this is also where the color blue comes from. At the very least, when you see this blue you will never again see the color the same way.

Scientists say the intensity of Crater Lake’s color is a product of its depth and purity. It is reputed to be the cleanest large body of water in the world.

The lake was formed nearly 8,000 years ago with the eruption of the formerly 12,000-foot volcano in which it lies. Subsequent eruptions formed Wizard Island, near the edge of the lake.

Boats ferry passengers out to the island four times a day for a three-hour stay. So if exploring a volcano within a volcano intrigues you, it’s probably best to limit your stops on the way up (there’s always the way back to enjoy those).

If you don’t have the time to devote to the ferry trip, there are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied. Here are just five of them:

Drive the Rim: There’s no better way to see Crater Lake than to take the 33-mile trek around Rim Drive. There are multiple scenic viewpoints along the way. You’ll want to allow two to three hours for the trip.

Tour the Lodge: You won’t be able to stay overnight in Crater Lake Lodge unless you booked your stay well in advance (we’re talking months or years), but you can sure visit the impressive facility, which was built in 1915 and renovated in the 90s.

Take a Hike: There’s all sorts of terrain to explore on foot, from forests and peaks to meadows. You can even walk down to the lake and dip your toe in the water.

Have a Picnic: Gather your groceries in Roseburg then spread out a blanket or grab a table at one of the many viewpoints or picnic areas.

Talk to a Ranger: No one knows Crater Lake like its park rangers and they lead a variety of educational activities.

There’s much more to experience at Crater Lake National Park and you’ll find many online resources where you can learn more about Oregon’s most cherished natural treasure.
You can start at the official National Park Service website.

Better yet, just start driving.

Biking the Rim of Crater Lake

Bike riding is one of life’s great joys. Whether you’re tooling through your hometown or touring the countryside sporting the latest biking attire, there’s a certain sense of freedom that comes with pedal power.

Now, imagine taking that freedom and adding in some of the most breathtaking scenery imaginable and you’ll understand why thousands of tourist each year bike the 33-mile Rim Drive at Crater Lake National Park.

According to Bicycling Magazine this is one of the world’s “Dream Rides”. But be warned, the rim isn’t open to bikes in the winter due to snow. Additionally, this isn’t your average, ordinary ride. If you have young children or you’re not exactly in the best of shape, you might be walking after just a few short miles. That’s because the road around the rim is long, narrow and has steep grades. From the lodge to the highest point on the ride, you’ll climb more than 1,400 feet. Of course, there are plenty of downgrades to enjoy as well. In all, you’ll experience 4,000 feet of elevation gain during your ride, and at times be at nearly 8,000 feet.

Most bicyclists go clockwise around the rim, starting at the park’s headquarters. There is no steadfast rule on that one, but you might feel out of whack if you go completely against the crowds.

Other bikers aside, what you will notice along the way are breathtaking views, smooth surfaces and a distinct lack of trash. This place is pristine and inspiring.

As you make your way around the lake, you’ll be mesmerized by the volcanic majesty and sheer cliffs. Sure, driving around the lake is a wonderful experience, but riding a bike allows your jaw to drop.

 Looking for some extra saddle time?

Try starting at the park’s southern boundary. With the rim ride, you’ll clock 70 miles and nearly 6,500 feet of climb. That’s a good ride in anyone’s book.

As for rules and warnings, the park has a few that are strictly enforced for your own safety as well as the safety of others.

  • Cyclists must respect and obey all rules that apply to automobile traffic, including speed limits.
  • Bicycle helmets are required. Cyclists face many hazards, including high speeds on steep downhill runs; rocks, animals, and other road hazards; and heavy traffic.
  • Only cyclists experienced at riding with auto traffic should consider biking at Crater Lake.
  • Park roads seldom have shoulders. Cyclists should use extreme caution, particularly along narrow areas and blind curves. Wear bright, highly visible clothing to help drivers see you.
  • Bicycles are not permitted on park trails. All roads closed to automobiles are also closed to bicycles.
  • For mountain biking, the Grayback Drive provides eight miles of unpaved, one-way road.
  • Cyclists unaccustomed to high altitudes may find that the elevation makes for difficult breathing.
  • Water is available only at Rim Village and Park Headquarters.

Even if you are coming into the park by bike, there is an entrance fee. Fees are $10 to enter the park by automobile, or $5 per bicycle up to a maximum of $10 per family.

Looking for a Bike to Rent?

Bike rentals are not available at the lodge. Instead, take the short drive to Diamond Lake Resort where you can rent bikes by the hour or the day.
Learn more about the route, and find bikes for rent with a few clicks.

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